Cyber stood duty until 0630, when the rest of the squad would be up and getting ready for the day. There was nothing better to do anyway. The only threat of attack to their dungeon of a barracks would be termites and theyd be already been there.
The one thing that no one ever mentioned was the memories that played with the mind. Duty sucked. And it had nothing to do with the boring hours.
Behind him, Cyber could hear the floor in Hooks office creak; the lieutenant was pacing.
In fact, Hook had been pacing only a few minutes after Cyber took the watch from Kai. The lieutenant checked in on the sleeping troops during the night; three that slept in the front and three that slept near the back.
Well, no one ever said lines wouldnt be drawn. Whether or not that line would endure remained to be seen.
Hook felt that time was running out and he needed them to be a team a whole team
in spirit, as well as in name if they were even going to have a chance. He grit his teeth for the umpteenth time; he needed fresh air.
Cyber didnt even glance over his shoulder when Hook stepped outside. Shoulder to shoulder, the two stood. And somehow, they both gazed at the same star.
One fought to unleash his boiling hatred; the other struggled with mistakes from the past.
Neither man spoke.
The sky was getting lighter and they both could hear early-morning activity around the base. Inside their barracks, someones alarm went off and was silenced within three seconds.
Neither man moved. They continued to be lost in thought
or what seemed to be.
Cyber didnt like being too close to the lieutenant. He hated Hook - that man had a power over him like no one ever had. Juliet was nothing like Hook; she was soft-spoken, rarely cross. There wasnt a moment yet that Hook didnt seem angry.
Inside his head, Cyber chuckled to himself. When had any of them not seemed angry? The thing with Hook
Cyber snapped to attention.
Hook crossed his hands behind his back, himself standing rigid.
Get them up. Weve got work to do.
Cyber nodded and quickly moved into their single-room barracks. He narrowed his eyes the thing with Hook was that the man commanded attention. Sometimes a look, sometimes a shrug, but anything he said, it was a done deal.
Cyber didnt have to wake anyone up. They were all stretching or climbing out of bed. He could hear the showers already going from the female-locker room. Nanoforge was the first person he walked by; the Marauder driver stood to his full-frame and glared at Cyber. Cyber smirked back. Oh, yeah, yesterday was still fresh in both their minds.
Slipping his weapon into his locker, Cyber watched the new medic, Jackson, and the other guy, Davis, quietly talk as they grabbed their toiletries and headed for the shower. He looked up when Hook entered the room; Cyber almost dropped his toothbrush when he caught a look of sudden desperation on the lieutenants face. By the time Cyber blinked, Hook had his arms crossed over his chest, glaring at the motley crew of Mobile Infantry apes.
Kai and Chiquita both stopped smiling as they left their locker room Hook stood a few feet away. Smiles didnt seem natural in Hooks presence. Quietly, they secured their lockers and made their beds before standing at attention in front of Hook.
Hook said nothing. Just waited.
About five minutes more, and the other four troopers stood at attention in front of Hook. No one was able to discern any kind of emotion from the lieutenants cold eyes. Even the sinewy Nanoforge was quiet.
Hook paced, his jaw set.
Today will be a different kind of day. You dont know each other. Hell, you guys dont like each other. Any other time and that would be fine by me. But its not any other time. And like it or not, you are in my squad. So to save time and money for a squad get-together, were going to have fun. You get me, apes?
Boot camp all over again.
Sir! We get you sir!
Could it be? Was there a smirk on the lieutenants face? There was accompanied by a cold gleam in his eye.
Fun is on the agenda. Youre going to like each other whether you want to or not.
Chiquita adjusted the ball cap so that it was now backwards. As she walked towards the batters box, she rotated the bat like a baton.
Nanoforge rolled his eyes. This is baseball, not band practice.
Pressure getting to you, Forge?
Top of the Fourth Inning. 4 - 2. Bases loaded. Two outs.
Nanos team was losing. Along with Smoke (at First) and Jackson (as catcher) they had recruited another squad to play along.
Chiquitas team, on the other hand, Cyber at Second and Kai as Shortstop, had enough chemistry to make things happen. And they knew it. Plenty of high-fives to go around.
Nanoforge hooked his fingers, made sure Cyber was still on the bag .and let loose the ball.
Nanoforge couldnt help but grin as Davis threw back the ball.
Chiquita glared at Hook.
Whose side are you on?
The lieutenant had a grin that matched Nanoforges.
Chiq, Im on your side.
You sure dont act like it, she said under her breath.
Davis crouched down again. Nanoforge went into the wind-up. As the ball was released, he caught something out of the corner of his eye.
Kai was in the dugout, jumping up and down excitedly - Cyber was stealing home. Chiquita nearly tripped over Jackson as he lunged for the ball.
Chiquita and Cyber smugly exchanged high-fives. Nanoforge cursed.
Uh, what was that? Chiquita cupped her ear
Taunting the pitcher, Chiq, Hook said. If youre not careful, hes going to cream you.
Cream puffs? Is that the name of this team?
Nanoforge knew he was being discussed.
See how you like this, he whispered. Checking the runners, he released his pitch. Chiquita swung hard.
Jackson immediately threw the ball back to Nanoforge, checking Chiquitas reaction. She pretended not to notice. Nanoforge checked the runners, went into the wind up, and threw the ball.
That familiar crack of the bat, and Chiquita was running. Kai and Cyber were on their feet, shouting to the other runners.
Nanoforge sighed as he watched the ball go past Smokes outreached glove, and roll into right field. It was a single, but another runner scored.
Chiquita winked at Nanoforge.
It was going to be a long day.
It certainly was.
Kai grabbed her side, applying pressure on the cramp. She shouldnt have scarfed down that lunch. She bent over, trying to catch her breath, wiping the perspiration from her brow.
Chiquita approached, patting her on the back.
S okay. Games not over.
Chiq, our goalie sucks!
Both girls looked across the soccer field where Nanoforge, Jackson, and Smoke were laughing it up, kicking the ball to each other.
I hate this game, Kai said.
But youre good at it.
Kai growled. Not against three former all-stars.
Cyber ran up to them, drenched from head to toe.
The lieutenant swears he didnt know they were professional players.
Kai looked over Hook, who gave her a nonchalant shrug.
He hates me. Kai winced, still struggling to catch her breath. Shouldve gone easy on Forge earlier this morning.
Chiquita and Cyber both grinned.
Hey, I handled it.
Kai snorted. Oh, yeah. Just like theyre handling us now.
The grins turned into frowns. And the whistle blew.
Crap. Kai sighed and hurried forward.
Hook handed the basketball to Nanoforge.
Chiq, one more and youre out of the game.
Nanoforge grinned at her and winked.
Oh, shut up, she said.
Heat getting to you? He sneered.
Jackson and Doc stood on either side of Kai and Cyber as Nanoforge readied his shots.
Nanoforge scored. Jackson had a smile on his face, and he couldnt resist a little jab at the opposing team.
Well, it seems that were on the right team, after all.
Smoke and Jackson imitated their opponents, and high-fived each other. Kai and Cyber shot them each a glare, but Nanoforges presence pretty much ended that conflict.
Chiquita was thrown out of the game before the first twenty minutes were up.
Smoke winced as he limped to the huddle.
Nanoforge was calling the defensive shots, but Smoke vaguely heard the orders; he was trying to ignore the searing pain in his leg.
Jackson looked over at Smoke, and raised an eyebrow in query. Smoke shook him off just in time for Nanoforge to break the huddle.
Nanoforge faced off against Cyber. Kai, as the receiver, squared off against Smoke. She didnt say anything, but the swelling above his knee concerned her. And the man was sweating profusely. Jackson was down at the other end.
Chiquita checked her line, then hiked the ball.
For being leaner than Nanoforge, Cyber held his own. There was still the matter of the previous days near-friendly fire. Cyber slipped on the ground, though, and Nanoforge rushed forward.
Kai already had the ball in her arms and easily outpaced Smoke. She scored. Again.
Nanoforge shoved Chiquita to the ground.
Late hit to the quarterback, she groaned, having the wind knocked out of her.
Nanoforge grunted before heading back to the huddle.
Kai helped Cyber to his feet, while Chiquita rolled to her knees.
Wheres the penalty, Lieutenant? Kai called.
Hook shrugged. I didnt see anything,he called back from the sideline.
Kai rolled her eyes. I swear, that mans got selective vision. Isnt this supposed to be touch-football?
Doesnt matter, Kai, Cyber glared over at the other team. Were not losing.
Smoke tried to move, but he was feeling nauseous. Both Kai and Nanoforge, even Hook, kept an eye on him. Nanoforge handed him a towel.
Smoke? You okay?
Smoke tried to look at Nanoforge, but managed to shake his head.
Nano, he said softly, Im going to have to sit this one out.
Nanoforge suddenly got worried. The dark-skinned Smoke shouldnt have been that pale.
Jackson rushed over just as Smoke slumped to the ground. Thankfully, Nanoforge had caught him and eased him down. Hook raced over; by the time he reached group looking down at Smoke, Jacksons hands were wet with blood. Hook cursed under his breath.
Sir, his bodys rejecting the leg implant. Hes going into shock.
Cyber! Hook shouted.
You and Nano help Jackson get Smoke to the clinic.
Cyber and Nanoforge locked eyes before Nanoforge bent down and eased Smoke over his shoulder. Cyber rushed over and commandeered a skimmer; Jackson went to work on Smoke as soon as Nanoforge gently helped him into one of the jump seats.
Hook and the other troops silently watched the skimmer rush off.
Kai twirled the football on her finger.
I guess we win, then?
Hook slowly looked over at her, but she was ready with a smirk.